Calls for 'Crooked House' law to protect pubs from developers

19 September 2023 by
Calls for 'Crooked House' law to protect pubs from developers

Campaigners have called for the introduction of a ‘Crooked House' law to protect pubs from being illegally demolished.

The number of pubs closing in England and Wales rose sharply in the first half of 2023, prompting warnings that more venues could be lost without action.

A total of 383 pubs shut for good during the first six months of the year, according to real estate analyst Altus Group. This almost matches almost the total number of closures in 2022, when 386 sites were lost.

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) said the "shocking" figures showed more needed to be done to stop important community assets from disappearing.

It comes after the Crooked House pub in Himley was gutted by a fire and subsequently demolished in August, just two weeks after it was sold by Marston's brewery.

The blaze at the pub, once known as Britain's "wonkiest" inn, provoked outrage in the local community and led to a police investigation. Three men arrested on suspicion of arson charges have since been released on bail.

CAMRA has called for planning laws to be amended to ensure pubs that are illegally shut down or demolished can be rebuilt "brick by brick".

"These new figures are shocking if not surprising as our locals continue to face rising costs, sky high energy bills, unfair business rates and customers tightening their belts," said CAMRA chairman Nik Antona.

"On the back of the Crooked House affair, we are…calling on the Westminster government to strengthen planning laws to make sure councils in England can protect pubs and require them to be converted back to their original use - or rebuilt brick by brick - if they are unlawfully converted or demolished."

Antona said the Welsh government also "urgently" needed to introduce stronger protection for pubs in the planning system.

He added that the end of business rates relief next year could see yet more pubs close.

CAMRA has called for the Chancellor to use his Autumn Statement to extend the scheme for hospitality and retail businesses past its spring cut-off point.

Eligible hospitality, leisure, and retail businesses get a 75% discount off their business rates bills for the 2023/2024 tax year up to a cap of £110,00 per business.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced the scheme during his 2022 autumn statement, but it is set to end on 31 March 2024.

Business rates are also set to rise next April in line with September's headline rate of inflation, which Altus Group warned could add more than 6% to bills next year.

"Governments across the UK also need to reform and replace the deeply unfair business rates systems to give pubs a fighting chance of surviving and thriving," said Antona.

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